It has been “old school, a shock to the system.”
Not his players’ “favourite” at present, Anth Smith insists Gateshead’s pre-season training programme will ensure the club hit the ground running come the start of the new Conference season.
The Tynesiders kick off their friendly campaign against SPL newcomers Partick Thistle at Durham City’s New Ferens Park today (3pm).
That follows a week of gruelling long-distance hill running, circuits and ball work.
However, Smith – considering an improved bid for Southport central midfielder Karl Ledsham after a first, five-figure offer was rejected – believes it will all prove beneficial come August 10.
He said: “It’s great to be back, it’s been a long break after finishing early last season.
“It is nice to get the lads back and get back into a routine, get a structured week in so we can start to plan and work on things for the new season.
“We started with fitness tests last week and the lads were all there or thereabouts.
“The days have gone of lads going away doing nothing.
“So they’ve started from a good base, it’s been a tough week and it’ll remain tough for the next two weeks.”
Smith added: “It’s been pretty ‘old school’ to be honest.
“We’ve mixed it up with the ball and a lot of hill running, a lot of longer-distance stuff, which has been a shock to some of their systems.
“I’m not their favourite at the minute!
“However, it’s not a popularity contest, that’s what I’m here to do and that’s what will pay dividends.
“It’s a long campaign, there are a lot of games. You need them to be at their best, physically and mentally.”
The Heed start the new campaign with a trip to last season’s Conference runners-up Kidderminster Harriers, followed by home games against Grimsby Town, who finished fourth, and relegated Barnet.
Smith said: “It’s quite a tough start but there are 46 tough games.
“We just have to go about our business and get organised for each of them.
“You have to play them all at some point, so we’ll look at it as two or three big teams to go at.
“It’ll be a good barometer as to where we’re at.
“The important thing is we hit the ground running. The disappointment of last season, the position we were in, that’s gone. We’ve got to look forward now.”